FORMER MUSIC CRITIC ASSESSES PD TREATMENT OF ROSENBERG

Submitted by Roldo on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 13:37.

Below is a message that has been sent to Steve Esrati, a former Plain Dealer copy editor. Esrati distributes comments, gripes and memories of former Plain Dealer editorial people to others.

The following is an honest appraisal, in my opinion, of the demotion of Rosenberg from his position of music critic at the PD, with the help of PD editor Susan Goldberg and the management of the Cleveland orchestra.

The writer, Bob Finn, is retired and the highly respected former music critic of the Plain Dealer.

What he says about the culture of the PD living up to its reputation of silencing its own reporters under the pressure of Cleveland’s cultural and corporate elite hits the mark. It’s happened so often that it has become ingrained and even when editors are brought from afar, as in Goldberg’s case, they catch the fever. Or, as I suspect, newspaper in all cities bow down to the civic and business elite. Only here, the bow goes lower.

Here are Finn’s remarks:

Steve: With all due respect to Bob Daniels and Professor Friedman (whose
commentary (Andy) Juniewicz (former PD) passed along), I think there is a much wider and
more important side to this whole affair, one that does far beyond
contractual clauses and legal niceties.

It is almost a moral issue. Both the PD and the Cleveland Orchestra
have disgraced themselves in this matter -- the PD for living up to its longstanding reputation for caving in to outside pressures and the
orchestra for exerting that pressure in the most heavy-handed Bush/Nixon style against someone whose opinions displeased it.

Don Rosenberg was simply doing his job. Whether you or I agree with
him is quite beside the point. The main issue is that he was demoted for doing what he was hired to do. The PD cannot claim that he is
incompetent -- after all, they are allowing him to review all sorts of
other musical events. The only issue is that the orchestra management
wanted him silenced and they got their wish. I know Don well enough to
say that he was simply stating his own opinion based on what he heard.
There is no hidden agenda or axe-grinding going on here. The statement
that he "attacked the orchestra" is utterly false.

What self-respecting critic (of music or anything else in the arts)
will ever want to work for the PD after this incident, knowing that the paper does not want honest expression of opinion that might displease someone? Somewhere in the critical writings of Virgil Thomson -- I tried to find it but had no luck -- there is a remark that "orchestras, like churches, accept only praise." How true!

Arts criticism is of course a highly subjective thing. Two trained
musicians can sit next to each other at the same concert and come up
with sharply opposed opinions about it. Yet it is a valuable thing and
should be practiced vigorously. It is not the same thing as determining who is on the take at city hall or who should play second base for the Indians. It takes specialized knowledge to write, and is always open to disagreement, provided that those who disagree can back up their arguments from their own knowledge. If it is censored by nonmusicians,
it becomes worthless.

Maybe there should be a clause in the Guild contract guaranteeing
that management will in no way interfere with the free expression of
opinion by arts critics.

Robert Finn

( categories: )

What did Rosenberg really expect...?

Shalom Roldo,

I see this as a manifestation of the one-newspaper town. The PD doesn't pay for several critics to cover the orchestra and Clevelanders don't have access to alternative reviews from other sources.

 Reporters have always enjoyed free expression as long as it didn't put a dent in profits.

 What happened to Rosenberg is a reality in a media world where sales trump editorial every time.

B'shalom,

Jeff Hess

http://www.havecoffeewillwrite.com

what happens in a world where we censor critics?

I wasn't always happy with what Wilma Salisbury had to say in print about my efforts in the art world, but boy was I curious when she retired (took the buyout deal) as to what dance criticism would look like at the PD. Dance has been a shrinking canary in Cleveland's coal mine for years (all of them as far as I know), but music remains a strong suit in our region. There is adequate other good music for Rosenberg to review, but it is ludicrous for a seemingly political manuever like this to be foisted upon a well respected critic. It seems so obviously the MAA trying to force the handout of free cheerleading space in column inches that it smacks of the very cronyism that infects Cleveland in even more serious ways.

I applaud Rosenberg for engaging in the lawsuit for Cleveland and for critics worldwide. He has shone a light on Cleveland, exposing an aspect of what may be one of the reasons Cleveland continues to fail. Locals may grouse and disagree about the orchestra, its conductor and its critic, but now they are doing so in front of a broader audience. Hell, even oboists are weighing in.

That the PD did not expect this sort of response seems a reflection on possibly the provincial and insular nature of our "one newhousepaper".

Has anyone else asked themselves, "who else is being subtly censored at the PD?"

No answers

  For me, the newspaper has become all questions and no answers.   It has no vested interest in making Cleveland and "greater" Cleveland--one community--which ultimately predicts the paper's own demise.